The Silbers – Morris, 89, and Ettie, 85 – bring the saying “Better late than never” to life. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, they are making aliya this month to fulfill their lifelong dream of joining their children and grandchildren in Israel.And their age doesn’t stop them in the slightest! With the help of their son Alan, they tell In Jerusalem about the activities they hope to take part in once they arrive in the Holy Land.Morris, as young and spirited as ever, says he is not coming to Israel to retire but is looking for employment, even if he becomes a bus or taxi driver.Ettie, on the other hand, is looking forward to making new friends and joining a Kalooki group, as she has spent many years practicing the fine strategies of card playing. They also hope to attend lectures for elderly olim, make a new circle of friends and practice tikkun olam by participating in various charity organizations.Tikkun olam has always been an important value in their lives, growing up Jewish in Johannesburg. Ettie talks a little about what it was like being raised in a Jewish household in Johannesburg.“In those days it was hard. My parents were immigrant Polish Jews. Morris’s parents fled Lithuania when he was three. Our parents worked hard in order to feed, clothe and educate us. We went to the heder to learn Hebrew and Jewish studies. We encountered anti-Semitism from the young Afrikaner children, which resulted in many a skirmish. Our parents only spoke Yiddish. Shabbat was always the highlight of the week. Both our families were observant,” she says.
Their participation in Jewish life didn’t stop there.“My parents were very Zionist all their lives. They supported Israel in every way,” says Alan.Even though the Silbers didn’t observe Shabbat in their home, they were very traditional. They are looking forward to living with their Orthodox children and participating in the more observant shomer Shabbat household.When asked about her potential increase in observance, Ettie remarks, “It’s much easier in Israel. There are about 70 different synagogues right where we will live, and my family there is shomer Shabbat.”Alan and his wife, Diane, made aliya 17 years ago with their children Yishai, Danit, Batsheva and Michal.Their home in Ra’anana is as open today as it was years ago in Johannesburg, and their table is always filled with guests on Shabbat and holidays.In a letter Diane sent to In Jerusalem, she expressed how the family is “looking forward to honoring Morris and Ettie in our home and at our table.”Because of the Silbers’ many friends and family members scattered around the globe, Israel will be a more central location, making it easier for their family to visit. In addition to Alan and Diane, the couple have a daughter Beverley, who lives with her husband Roy Lomnitz and children in Johannesburg. The Silbers’ son Colin and his wife, Janice, live with their children in Canada. “The years of traveling to see family in Australia, Canada and other places are over for us. Now that we will be in the center of the world, they will all be able to visit us in our new home in Israel,” say Morris and Ettie.The Silbers will be missed by the Johannesburg community and by the members of Sydenham Highlands North, the synagogue they attended for more than 70 years. Granddaughter Gabi Baker of Johannesburg says she will miss them terribly and is motivated for her and husband, Mark, to think about joining them in Israel as soon as possible.Diane says, “We all wish Morris and Ettie Silber the very best of health, strength, peace and happiness in their mitzva of making aliya. Kol hakavod to both of them, and may their aliya be a source of inspiration and motivation to all Jews across the globe to make aliya, no matter from where or at what age.”